Appalachian Food


Homemade float

A year or so ago, I was introduced to Mark F. Sohn’s Appalachian Cookbooks. As I flipped through the pages, the recipes seemed authentic and I loved the historical content he added to each recipe or group of recipes.

More recently, 2 of Sohn’s cookbooks made their way into my personal collection (THANK YOU Miss Cindy). I haven’t had time to cook anything major from the books, however a recipe included in both caught my eye-its called Float.

I immediately noticed the recipe was very similar to the custard sauce I learned to make at JCCFS a few years ago. But what I found fascinating about Sohn’s recipe is-he says the end result can be served as a drink as well as a sauce. In Mark F. Sohn’s words:

Boiled custard is a cooked sauce or drink. Mountaineers call it float, and when cooked and cooled, the sauce is thick, rich, and sweet. The French call it English custard or creme anglaise, and they use it as a sauce as well as the base for floating islands.

I’ve never heard of float before, other than the way Granny used to pour coke over her icecream and call it a float. Since we now have plenty of eggs (I LOVE MY CHICKENS), Chatter and I decided we’d try making Sohn’s float recipe.

You need:

  • 1 quart milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

First-put the milk in a large sauce pot and allow it to warm on medium heat.

While the milk is heating-mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl.

Add part of the hot milk to the egg mixture and stir well-then add all the sugar/milk mixture to the rest of the milk in the sauce pot. Continue to stir and heat mixture until it reaches 175 F on a candy thermometer or until the mixture thickens slightly (it won’t get very thick). If you end up with any scrambled egg pieces in the float-you can strain them out.

Pour the float in a jar and let chill in the frig before serving. You can sprinkle a little nutmeg on top of the float once you serve it-or not-its good either way.

YUM! Wow it is good, I mean milkshake good. Easy to whip up and easy to dispose of in a hurry. But what I’m really interested in is finding out if you’ve ever heard of a drink called Float or ever had it before?


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  • Reply
    Deborah Vest
    June 17, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    Yes my Mom made float and it was wonderful. We ate it over ice.

  • Reply
    Grandma Cate
    April 29, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Shucks! That’s just good, rich eggnog!
    Mama called it “eggnog without the nog”!

    • Reply
      Jeannie Emberton
      June 17, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      Sounds like eggnog to me.Also the mix for bread pudding,without the bread.

  • Reply
    Mel Keown
    November 22, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    We had float every Christmas at met grandmothers in western Kentucky. It was thick and served cold. The adults would put a little “flavoring” in theirs; which was bourbon. What else would you put in it if you were from Ky?

    • Reply
      Yvette Ridenour
      December 21, 2018 at 6:25 pm

      My Granny (from Kentucky) made float every Christmas and it was just this recipe! I am so happy to have found it, since although I wrote down Granny’s directions, they were not precise. 🙂 This tastes just like Granny’s, except that she used a little lemon extract in hers. So delicious! I have made the recipe you posted twice before (and I am making in again on Christmas) and everyone agrees that it tastes just like Granny’s. She always put hers (served cold) over Sara Lee All Butter Pound Cake. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

  • Reply
    Bonnie Dunston
    June 7, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Sounds like the way my Mama made eggnog. When we were in the military we went to a reception at the Canadian liaison house and they served “moose milk”. It sure did taste like Tennessee eggnog.

  • Reply
    Jim Baker
    June 7, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Float was something I looked forward to when visiting my grandmother in southern Kentucky. Once each visit, we would have float. Made as you describe it, I believe. Seems it was a little thick, and beige color. The farm is in a dry county, so my dad would bring some bourbon with us, and a nip was added to the glass of float, but not for us kids.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Ed-LOL-no I cant milk a cow-but I bet I could learn! Now if I just had a cow!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    June 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Sounds like a must have book…I’ll be looking at City Lights Bookstore for them! Thanks for the post:)

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    June 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Our Bro Tom LOVES boiled custard which this sounds like. Boiled custard use to be available in the grocery stores around the holidays, but we have trouble finding it anymore. Luckily, it’s not that hard to make. We never called it Float though, but I can understand why one might call it that IF the floating meringue islands are floating on top, but if they aren’t, continuing to call it that is difficult to understand.
    Our Dad was a milkman, so milk and ice cream were readily available to us. We often had Root Beer Floats, but my favorite is a Root Beer Cooler which some call a Brown Cow or a Root Beer Blend, where you put all the ingredients for a Root Beer Float into a glass or blender, then blend it all up until smooth. If you haven’t had one of those, it’s wonderful, and I hope you’ll try it.
    I have diabetes, and I make it with diet Root Beer and no-sugar-added vanilla ice cream; it’s still wonderful. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I’ve had a few root beer floats that really improved a hot summer afternoon, but not recently. Thanks for reminding me!
    This sounds like a delicious treat. I’ve made lots of eggnogs (love my hens, too!) but never a cooked custard-type thing. Now I’m tempted.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    This sounds a lot like the eggnog that my Mom used to make only I don’t remember that she cooked the eggs. She did sprinkle nutmeg over it. We always had our own eggs and an abundance of them so had the eggnog, especially when my little brother came down with rheumatic fever and was so dreadfully ill. He needed iron and calories to build him up again and eggnog was one thing Mom used. Rich custards is another thing Mom cooked. Before Mom and Dad married Mom was a domestic for a couple of rich families in Des Moines. One dessert the children loved for Mom to cook was custard. I didn’t like that too well growing up. We just had too many eggs so eating anything with lots of eggs in it became more difficult for me as the years wore on. Today I am much better but still don’t choose to eat eggs if there is another choice.
    Our Root beer floats are similar to what others have described: ice cream in a glass with root beer pop poured over. But we call them brown cows. They are a favorite with my grandchildren today.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    I think I’ll walk in to CVS and ask “Where’s the soda fountain?” Reckon what kind of looks that’ll get me?

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    You could also order a float at drugstore soda fountains, back when.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    As others,my Mamma and my aunt used to make us floats with coke and ice cream.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Like Granny, I always thought floats were some flavor of soda pop (here in east Tx as kids we called it sodie water) poured over ice cream.The type of float u are talking about sounds more like eggnog without the whiskey.Sounds good tho.

  • Reply
    Debbie Nobles
    June 26, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    A float was with butter pecan ice cream.This is what Grandma called a milkshake that you were lucky enough to get when you were sick and got to stay with Grandma and grandpa.Thanks I haven’t thought of it in years.Debbie

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    My husband’s mother makes it every Christmas & calls it “boiled custard.” She sometimes serves it with fruit salad stirred in.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    June 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Yes. Momma made that a lot down here. We just called it vanilla custard. It was the precursor to lots of delicious dishes, even churned Ice cream.
    After my grandpa got home from a long stay in the hospital, he was kindly puny. She brought him back up making him a gallon of this, enriched with extra eggs, and I took it to his house over in Greenville, SC every Sunday afternoon. He enjoyed a Dixie Cup-full every morning and evening the rest of his life.
    I haven’t thought about this in a long time. I wonder if you can make something like it with Stevia. Thanks.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Like Granny, a float to me is Coke, cream soda or root beer poured over ice cream. YUM!!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    So now that you have chickens for your egg supply, when are you adopt a milk producer. It looks like it’s going to be a good year for tops and fodder to feed one. Can you milk a cow?

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    June 26, 2013 at 10:57 am

    This sounds like my egg nog recipe only with fewer eggs. Interesting!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 26, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Sounds like “eggnog”! I wonder what the difference in the ingredients are! I’ve never made either…only store boughten! Mom used to make it on occasion! Dad raised cane, didn’t like wastin’ eggs on eggnog as he didn’t like it anyhow! LOL
    I came from some good NC cooks and listened in on recipes as a young girl. I have never heard of “Float”…I wonder what part of NC that particular recipe originated from..
    Oh we had plenty of homemade floats, rootbeer and coke floats. It was too expensive to go to the drug store fountain and buy them back then.
    Thanks Tipper,
    Mom always used nutmeg and or cinnamon on top of her nog! It was years before I aquired a taste for all those floating thickness of nog or float…I know one thing for shore…It surely will make you bloat…a bloat that is hard to get off, without walkin’ uphill both ways!
    ‘Course you don’t have that problem!

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 9:59 am

    By changing 1/3 of the milk to sweetened condensed milk and 2/3 of the milk to evaporated milk then baking in a water bath, you are on your way to flan, a traditional Mexican dessert.
    In any case, Sohn’s version of a float does sound scrumptious. I like the concept of warm egg nog. Must try it some cool winter night.
    I wonder if, perhaps, sponge cake was “floated” in this custard. My Granny used to make a thin custard sauce to pour over pound cake or angel food cake. It is one of her recipes I wish I had.
    On the other end of the temperature spectrum, Root Beer Floats are very popular here in the Texas heat. Oh, how I miss the A&W drive-ins and their frosty mugs!

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 9:49 am

    One thing for sure is I already
    have all those ingredients to make
    a float. But I don’t even crave a
    Milkshake but about once a year. If
    the float was chilled real thick,
    it sure would be nice on these hot
    days. You seem to always manage to
    get my taste buds a wondering…Ken

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 9:23 am

    The only float I ever heard of was the kind like Granny used to make using ice cream. With the simple ingredients, I’m surprised Mom never made it.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 8:19 am

    As children we would have a root beer float, made especially at the Woolworth Dime Store. I think your float sauce might just be wonderful over some special holiday cake or even a carrot cake. It sounds and looks so yummy!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 26, 2013 at 8:09 am

    No Never, it sounds good though

  • Reply
    June 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I’ve never had this before, but it reminds me a lot of the egg nog that my Daddy made each year for Christmas. It was served with nutmeg and a little cinnamon sprinkled on top. His had a little whiskey mixed in it too.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 26, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Nope, never heard of it. Sounds a lot like a warm eggnog. With it’s ingredients it’s bound to be good.
    I glad the books turned out to be good. I look forward to browsing through them.

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    June 26, 2013 at 7:54 am

    love ice cream floats…cant handle custard. my family makes custard at christmas only. i will share this and they will probably have to make some asap.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 26, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I’ve never had “Float” but I think I might like to try it. The other day I read that nutmeg is a mild hallucinogen. Maybe the name is appropriate! uP!uP! and awaaaaY!

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